Circumcision is an embarrassing subject. To talk openly about it is taboo. We know it by association with religion, but otherwise only through jokes and urban legends. Most people don't know much about it, and parents don't think about it until they have to. The great majority of American men are circumcised---but why? Shouldn't we know more? Indeed, there is a lesson here---a fascinating, yet deeply disturbing one---for those willing to discover it.
In under 100 short pages, the book, "Circumcision: What It Does", by Billy Ray Boyd, deals frankly and openly with the denial, fear, pain, anger, myths and ignorance surrounding circumcision. For instance: Did you know that medical circumcision started in the 1800s as a way to discourage masturbation? That circumcision decreases sexual sensitivity and dries up a man's natural lubrication? That the United States is the only country in the world to circumcise most of its baby boys, other than for religious reasons? That "foreskin restoration" has been practiced, on and off, for almost as long as circumcision itself has existed?
All expectant parents should read this book. All circumcised men should read this book. And all doctors, sociologists, anthropologists and historians should read this book. "Circumcision: What It Does" is a book ahead of its time. In the 1990's the world is not yet ready to talk about what circumcision means, and what it does to mens' bodies and psyches. But that will soon change, and it is through the eloquence, dedication, courage and compassion of people like Billy Ray Boyd that this change will be brought about. Make no mistake: This will be no less significant a change in the recorded history of American society than the abolition of slavery or the enfranchisement of women have been before it.
Reviewed by Geoffrey T. Falk, (c) 1996
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